Metro Parent Top Teacher Awards 2013
It's our annual tribute to five outstanding educators in metro Detroit. See how they bring Spanish, math, the library, compassion and kindergarten to life.
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Lois Mann, Kindergarten Teacher, Oak Ridge Elementary School, Royal Oak
Lois Mann has been teaching long enough at Oak Ridge Elementary School in Royal Oak that many of her former students are now bringing their kids to be in her class. Even current principal Jason Parrott remembers she was one of the kindergarten teachers when he attended the school. And many parents are worried that their beloved kindergarten teacher may someday retire.
Parrott's own daughter was in Mann's class, so he understands her special gift for teaching young learners – and the reason so many parents hope Mann will still be around to teach their youngsters.
"Honestly, she knows kindergarten students and she knows how to speak to them at their level," says Parrott, who thinks of Mann as the matriarch of their school. "She's been teaching for so long that she knows the different personalities of the students and what works well for them. But she still approaches the job like it's her first year."
On keeping her approach fresh year after year, Mann says, "I just believe that I'm learning always as much as the kids when I teach. I want the kids to be lifelong learners, and part of that is to have fun while you're learning."
Just one example: the Reading Bath Tub. To help kids literally get into reading, Mann has an actual tub in her classroom filled with pillows where the kids can invite a friend to sit and enjoy a good book together. The tub has been in the classroom nearly as long as Mann. For 33 years, the Reading Bathtub has welcomed kids and even changed colors as the building has been renovated. In fact, this summer when the building is repainted, the bathtub will most likely get another coat of paint to match.
As to when Mann will retire, parents can rest assured it hasn't even entered her mind.
"I truly have never thought about retiring," Mann says. "I'm sure I will retire some day, but it's not something I ever think about. I just love what I do." Rather than dwelling on that, Mann would rather talk about something else – her students, the kindergarteners. Of these little people, Mann describes them as having a very busy and very curious approach to life.
"They're just so caring with each other. If we all could see the world through their eyes, there would be a lot less problems in the world."